Years & Years at the Roundhouse
“We haven’t played a London gig in a very long time,” Years & Years’ frontman and burgeoning queer icon Olly Alexander laughs as the last of the confetti floats down towards the ground. “This is the Palo Santo party but we’re still in the Communion era.” We’re only three into the setlist, but with Sanctify, Take Shelter and Shine already having given almost religious fervour to an ecstatic crowd, the party is well underway.
Alexander dominates the stage at all times, physically much bigger on it than he appears off it. Even as one, two, three and finally four dancers join the singer to add to an already crowded setup featuring band members Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen, drummer Paris Jeffree and backing singers, there’s still only one place where everyone’s eyes fall. The vocalist’s shock of red hair, chain-choker, orange hazmat inspired overalls and PVC shorts with oversized zips are only half the story. There’s an easy charm too, a presence, and a clear connection with his fans. Standing alone at the front of the stage, listening to the crowd echo his lyrics to All for You, the artist brings the room to life. His power over the audience is made even clearer in the ensemble’s rendition of their infectiously upbeat hit If You’re Over Me. The 27-year-old even brings one lucky fan up to join him at the piano – a recipient of the Make a Wish Foundation – as the trio performs Eyes Shut.
If the lead singer holds the gaze, though, that isn’t for a lack of other options. This gig is a constant and glorious assault on the senses: the red, blue and neon pink colour palette radiates from screens in a dizzying array of shapes and combinations; Goldsworthy briefly clambers down to the main stage and plays a hand-held keyboard shaped like a giant musical note; four dancers – each with their own outfit and personality – writhe around, caressing the stage, each other and Alexander. One visual moment stands out above all others, though. Palo Santo sees the charismatic frontman atop a podium, draped in a flowing, lilac, studded shawl. As the opening chords play, he rises higher and higher to truly dominate the arena. Performers and crowd alike look up, exultant.
Alexander has talked about how he wants his latest album to be a more unabashed exploration and celebration of his queer identity. In beginning with Sanctify and its promise that “I won’t be ashamed” before delivering 75 minutes of ecstatic, energetic and provocative synthpop finishing with the anthemic King, Years & Years certainly achieve that tonight.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
For further information and future events visit Years & Years’ website here.
Watch the video for If You’re Over Me here: